Wireless VR on the horizon with 4K Wi-Fi streaming

A wireless chip technology shown off at CeBit in Hannover, Germany, today could spell the end of cable-connected virtual reality headsets.

The technology, developed by Hong Kong-based ViShare Technology Limited, uses two chips – one at the source end and one at the output end – to wirelessly stream video over Wi-Fi at up to 4K resolution, effectively functioning as a wireless HDMI.

As a result, it can be used for both virtual and augmented reality, as well as in drone FPV headsets, wireless projectors and as a replacement for HDMI for wireless gaming and video streaming.

The technology, which was demonstrated at CeBit, works well enough that it was impossible to see any difference between a 4K source video and the wirelessly streamed version, even with the huge numbers of wireless signals within the venue. According to ViShare, it has only a 5 millisecond latency, making it a reliable and appealing option for a host of applications.

A diagram showing some of the potential applications of the technology. Image courtesy of ViShare Technology

While other wireless streaming solutions are available, these largely rely on 60GHz transmission, which comes with a number of issues that have presented significant roadblocks to widespread adoption.

60GHz has a relatively short range, limiting its use to fairly compact spaces, and requires line-of-sight, meaning that it can easily drop if an object or person gets in the way. As a result, it is fairly poor for virtual reality, and will only suit pretty specific setups for standard video streaming.

By contrast, ViShare’s solution has a far longer range – the same as the Wi-Fi network being used – and does not require any line of sight, making it far more suitable for applications such as VR, as well as normal home environments.

The technology could be integrated into established virtual reality headsets, such as the Oculus Rift. Image courtesy of Oculus VR

However, as fantastic as the technology is, it is not yet ready for consumers to plug in and use.

At present ViShare is showcasing a prototype version of the chip, which works perfectly but is without housing and a little large – about the length and width of a small paperback book – to be used for some applications.

Nevertheless, the technology could find its way into consumer hardware before long. ViShare is looking to partner with a solution house to turn the chip into a plug-and-play dongle, and is also keen to work with VR developers to integrate the technology directly into virtual reality headsets.

And with such a strong technology, and a clear demand from consumers, we’ll be very surprised if the technology isn’t embraced by major hardware companies.

Travel industry looks to VR to change the holiday experience

The travel industry is looking to virtual and augmented reality technology to offer up new experiences. At the recent Travel Technology Europe trade show, a session was available to highlight the applications of VR and AR in the industry, with featured contributions from technology specialists such as Magic Leap and Timelooper, as well as travel companies such as Etihad Airways.

As already demonstrated by Guerilla Science with their Intergalactic Travel Bureau, virtual reality offers up a whole new realm of experiences for travellers to sample. And while conventional travel companies may not be looking quite so far afield as Guerilla Science’s outer planetary plans, the possibilities of VR travel offer up a convenience that’s hard to achieve with regular holidays.

For example, skiing holidays are typically rather expensive but at the show, Cardiff-based travel systems developer Tigerbay unveiled a simulation that would drastically cut the cost of such an experience.

The simulation took the form of a 360° video shot on the Val D’Isere ski resort, starting from the top of the Alps and ending in Chalet Hotel.

“Virtual reality is fast becoming a part of mainstream digital content across all industries, so travel businesses must keep an eye on these latest developments to best bring their products to life,” explained Tigerbay at the event.

Image courtesy of Samsung

There are, of course, obvious issues with the notion of shifting the travel industry to a virtual reality focus. The idea of using such experiences as the ski simulation for marketing purposes is novel, but poses the risk that someone could pay a, presumably, fairly low cost for the experience and then decide that they’ve got everything they could want out of a skiing experience.

Alternatively, companies could face the threat of people deciding that they don’t have any need to go on an actual holiday, something that brings in real money to the companies, when they can cheaply hop into VR experiences. This does of course seem unlikely; I can’t imagine anyone booking a week off to sit in an Oculus Rift and pretend to ski.

What perhaps seems more likely is that virtual reality and augmented reality can play complementary roles to established practices. VR tours of your destination and accommodation before you leave; AR tools that to act as digital travel guides when you arrive. Rather than transforming the travel industry, it seems more probable that reality technologies will merely add to it.

While there are certainly appealing possibilities, the thought of being able to skip out of a tour group and just rely on some sort of Google Glass like gear to provide the same information at your own pace would be a revelation, it seems that perhaps more than anything this is another case of an industry that doesn’t really have a stake jumping on a technology they don’t fully understand.